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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
In a quadrilateral discussion before a near capacity audience in the Kirkland House Common Room last night, four professors staged a verbal battle over their concepts of the study of history. The meting was sponsored by the Council of History and Literature Concentrators.
According to Crane Brinton '19, associate professor of History, we study history not only for enjoyment but also to provide an "arsenal of experience" from which we can draw analogies with present or future events. Through history, he said, we may often obtain new insight on contemporaneous happenings.
Assorting that Professor Brinton's "arsenal" was unreliable, Frederick Mork, professor of History, declared that present conditions may be so different from these in the past that "they may be deceptive--they may make our conclusions wrong even more often than right." History's positive value, Professor Merk said, is that it tends to build up character and individuality in the reader.
Perry Miller, associate professor of History and Literature, expressed the belief that stereotyped schools of thought spring up immediately after events, and cited five definite theories on Hess's flight which encompass almost every rational idea of the motive of the No. 3 Nazi. These theories, he said, have changed relatively little since they were formed 48 hours after Hess's landing.
D. J. Struik, professor of Mathematics at M. I. T., compared political with scientific history. Science is cumulative, he pointed out, but it is not always true that political leaders can build upon experience of the past. "Nevertheless, the main periods of general history correspond to those of the history of science," he said.
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